Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Proposed New Coverage Requirements for Fisheries Observers

For many years the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has been working to align the insurance coverage requirements for Fishery Observers across its various regions and to supply a set of attainable requirements. 


This culminated with an Observer Provider Insurance Workshop on election day 2016 in Washington DC. I was fortunate enough to be invited to this 2-day workshop to discuss this topic with fellow industry representatives.


National Marine Fisheries Service, also known as NOAA Fisheries, is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration within the Department of Commerce. The organization is tasked with overseeing the various fishery observer programs designed to protect and monitor fisheries across the US. Their National Observer Program "Allows NOAA Fisheries to address observer issues of national importance and develop overarching policies and procedures that reflect the diverse needs of regional observer programs."

Their goal has been to establish uniform, nationally consistent minimum insurance requirements that would apply to all their observer programs and would:

  • Specify authorized observer provider companies’ responsibilities as the observer employer.  
  • Provide regionally consistent insurance requirements through national minimum standards. 
  • Offer an insurance suite that better addresses the risks observers, their employers, and vessels may face with observer deployments.
  • Minimize the regulatory burden through the removal of redundancy and unnecessary requirements.
  • Clarify the applicability of statutory and common law authorities to observers, whether deployed at sea or shoreside.

Finally, a little over five years after that workshop, they have published a proposed rule. You can find the detail of the proposed rule here in the federal register.

What’s my take on their proposal? The concept makes a lot of sense, but some of the terminology and coverages do not reflect the actual policies available to address the coverage of an Observer.
I have posted my comments and suggestions to their response site to provide one clear set of national insurance requirements. You may also download my response here.

Ian Greenway